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Do Part-Time & Full-Time Employees Have Different Rights?


If you’re currently a part-time employee or a full-time worker who’s considering a part-time job, chances are you’ve thought about how these types of employment are different.

There is, of course, the obvious difference: a part-time worker is someone who works fewer hours than a full-time worker. So, how many hours does it take to be a full-time worker? As it turns out, there isn’t much of a legal distinction.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – which outlines most federal employment laws – doesn’t specify how many hours a full-time or part-time worker must work to be classified as such. The closest it comes to addressing this issue is providing overtime pay for non-exempt employees who work 40 or more hours per workweek. The Affordable Care Act acknowledges full-time employees as those who work 30 or more hours per week, but this is for purposes beyond the subject of this article.

Because there isn’t a clear legal distinction between what constitutes full-time or part-time status, employees in either category can expect to have the same rights as the other. In other words, all federal and state laws apply to employees regardless of part-time or full-time status.

Employment Statuses That Carry Different Rights

There are two sets of employment statuses that do provide different rights, depending upon which an employee has. Unlike part-time or full-time status, these are legally outlined, and employers are legally responsible for correctly classifying their employees.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

The first pair of employment statuses are exempt vs. non-exempt. The main difference between these two statuses is their eligibility to earn overtime pay as provided by the FLSA: a non-exempt employee is eligible for overtime pay; an exempt employee is not.

Exempt employees are typically executives, managers, outside salespersons, computer techs, and other professionals. An exempt employee typically earns much more money than a non-exempt employee does, but this is not a legal requirement. Perhaps the most important distinction is that an exempt employee exercises independent judgment and discretion that a non-exempt worker does not.

Non-exempt workers, then, make up the vast majority of the workforce. They are typically unskilled laborers, but this is not always the case. Many people with formal education that directly related to their employment may be non-exempt employees.

Misclassifying a non-exempt employee as exempt is illegal. Employees who have been misclassified as such may pursue compensation by filing a lawsuit against their employer.

Employees vs. Intendent Contractors

It also matters, legally, if a worker is considered to be a company’s employee or an independent contractor. An employee is someone who is hired into the company to perform a specific role or function within that company. Employees are protected by all federal and state employment laws.

By contrast, independent workers are considered to be separate business owners who offer outside assistance to another company. This assistance typically involves work that is different from what the hiring company offers to its clients. Because independent contractors are not employed by the hiring company as employees, no federal or state laws that protect employees apply to them – including those involving overtime and even discrimination.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

While your rights won’t change whether you’re a part-time worker or a full-time employee, you may have been misclassified in another manner that carries legal consequences. If you think you may need legal assistance, reach out to our attorneys at K2 Employment Law Group for help.

Get in touch with us and ask about scheduling a free consultation by submitting an online contact form or by calling (800) 590-7674.